European business activity slows in June as higher interest rates begin to bite

Key Points
  • S&P Global's Chris Williamson described the numbers as "worrying" as the euro zone's flash composite PMI dropped to 50.3 in June.
  • Earlier data from Germany also showed a slowdown in Europe's largest economy and it was a similar story for France.
  • Euro zone bond yields dropped following the German and French data releases.
Higher interest rates are taking their toll on business activity, economist says
Higher interest rates are taking their toll on business activity, economist says

Business activity growth in Europe slowed in June, pointing to a difficult end to the second quarter, according to preliminary data Friday.

The euro zone's flash composite Purchasing Managers' Index dropped to 50.3 in June from 52.8 in the previous month. This was below the 52.5 expected by analysts. A reading above 50 marks an expansion in activity, while one below 50 marks a contraction.

"Eurozone business output growth came close to stalling in June, according to the latest HCOB flash PMI survey data produced by S&P Global, pointing to renewed weakness in the economy after the brief growth revival recorded in the spring," S&P Global said in a release.

"Although energy and supply chain worries have eased since late last year, June has seen a further escalation of concerns over demand growth, and in particular the impact of higher interest rates, and the resulting possibilities of recessions both in domestic markets and further afield."

Speaking to CNBC's Street Signs Europe, Chris Williamson, chief business economist at S&P Global Market Intelligence, described the numbers as "worrying."

"Higher interest rates, the rise in the cost of living, all beginning to take their toll," he said.

The European Central Bank has been increasing interest rates consistently for the past 12 months in an effort to bring down inflation. Higher rates can lead to higher costs for companies across the bloc, however, and so often become a drag on output.

Fresh PMI data came in below expectations and pointed to an economic slowdown.
Bloomberg | Bloomberg | Getty Images

On a country-by-country basis, data earlier in the day from Germany also showed a slowdown in Europe's largest economy. The German flash composite PMIs fell to 50.8 in June from 53.9 in May. This was below market expectations.

"These data are consistent with our view that GDP (gross domestic product) growth in Germany will remain subdued in second and third quarters after the economy registered a technical recession," Claus Vistesen, chief euro zone economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, said in a note to clients.

Germany entered a technical recession in the first quarter of the year, after contracting 0.3% over the three-month period. In the final quarter of 2022, Germany's economy shrunk by 0.5%.

It was a similar story in France, where the composite PMI sunk to 47.3 from 51.2 in May, well below the 51 expected. This was primarily due to weakness in the services sector.

Euro zone bond yields extended their falls following data, with the yield on the 2-year German bund dropping to 3.17% in early trade and the yield on the 10-year benchmark lowering to 2.36%. An economic slowdown tends to be negative for bond yields.